Last week, we highlighted state minimum wage increases in Vermont and New Jersey. This week, once again, we salute states that refuse to march lock-step with the Bush Administration's radical agenda.
On Monday, Montana became the fifth state to officially condemn the USA Patriot Act. Joining Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, and Vermont--not to mention more than 375 local governments--Montana's state legislature passed the strongest statewide resolution against the Patriot Act yet, according to the ACLU. In an overwhelming bipartisan consensus, Montana's House of Delegates voted to approve Senate Joint Resolution 19--which discourages state law enforcement agencies from cooperating in investigations that violate Montanans' civil liberties--88 to 12. Earlier this year, the resolution passed in the state Senate 40 to 10.
"I've had more mail on this bill than on any other, and it's 100 percent positive," said House Member Brady Wiseman (D-Bozeman). Republican Rick Maedje (R-Fortine) said the resolution "protects our states' rights and is what true Republicans in every 'red state' should be doing."
SJ-19 also recommends that the state destroy all information gathered under the Patriot Act that is not directly related to a criminal investigation, and calls on librarians to inform citizens that their library records are unsafe from federal investigations.
Although the resolution does not carry the weight of the law, its impact is already being felt in Washington. On Tuesday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, agreed to minor modifications of the Patriot Act, and said he was "open to suggestions" about additional changes, a notable departure from John Ashcroft's hard line stance. And on Wednesday, Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Larry Craig (R-ID) introduced the Security and Freedom Enhancement (SAFE) act.
As several provisions of the Patriot Act are set to "sunset" in December, lawmakers pushing SAFE hope to restore privacy protections and limit abusive tactics such as roving wiretaps and "sneak and peak" searches. SAFE, which was recommended to Congress in Montana's SJ-19, has drawn support from organizations ranging from the ACLU to Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, a national network of conservative groups.
Both Red and Blue America agree: Better SAFE than sorry.
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Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker, and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.
© 2005 the Nation